|Publication number||US5263765 A|
|Application number||US 07/931,518|
|Publication date||Nov 23, 1993|
|Filing date||Aug 21, 1992|
|Priority date||Dec 27, 1989|
|Publication number||07931518, 931518, US 5263765 A, US 5263765A, US-A-5263765, US5263765 A, US5263765A|
|Inventors||Hideyuki Nagashima, Yoichi Kishi|
|Original Assignee||Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (10), Referenced by (59), Classifications (19), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of application Ser. No. 07/633,948, filed Dec. 26, 1990 and now abandoned.
The present invention relates to a seat which includes a plurality of portions which can be varied with respect to form and hardness.
Various kinds of seats for a motor vehicle of this type have been proposed in past years. One such seat is disclosed in JP 61-257333. This seat has a side support portion, a center support portion, and a front support portion which include support members therein. The contour of the seat is variable by expanding and contracting each of the support members. In the event of long driving, each of the support members is controlled at a predetermined cycle by a timer so as to vary the contour of the seat. This variation in contour of the seat results in a periodic change in the posture of a seat occupant, decreasing the fatigue of the occupant during driving.
With such a known seat for a motor vehicle, however, since each of the support members is controlled only with a predetermined cyclic pattern which can not be changed, the same cyclic pattern is applied to any seat occupant, causing the seat occupant discomfort in some cases.
It is, therefore, an object of the present invention to provide a seat having a variable contour which contributes to a decrease in the fatigue of a seat occupant without causing any discomfort.
A seat according to the present invention includes a seat cushion and a seat back extending form the seat cushion. One or more supports is disposed within the seat cushion or seat back, and an actuator is operatively connected to the supports for varying a characteristic of the supports. A command generating means is provided for allowing a seat occupant to generate a manual command for the actuator. The actuator is controlled by a control system which automatically selects a first operating state for the actuator in which the actuator varies a characteristic of the support according to a first mode of variation. When a command from the command generating means is generated, the control system controls the actuator to switch from the first operating state to a second operating state in which the actuator varies a characteristic of the support according to a second mode of variation.
The seat may also include fatigue sensing means for sensing fatigue of the seat occupant. When the fatigue sensing means senses fatigue, the control system controls the actuator to operate in the first operating state until a command is generated from the command generating means.
FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic view illustrating a preferred embodiment of a seat according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a flowchart showing the operation of the preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a time chart showing the relationship between a typical driving pattern of a motor vehicle and the control timing of an automatic mode and manual command; and
FIG. 4 is a view similar to FIG. 3, showing subsequent modes.
Referring to the accompanying drawings, a preferred embodiment of a seat according to the present invention will be described.
Referring to FIG. 1, a seat S for a motor vehicle includes a seat cushion 3 and a seat back 5. The seat cushion 3 includes cushion side support portions 7 and 9 on both sides thereof, whereas the seat back 5 includes back side support portions 11 and 13 on both sides thereof.
Inside the seat cushion 3 are arranged, as support means, a buttock support air mat 15 and a thigh support air mat 17 for supporting the seat occupant's buttocks and thigh, respectively, whereas inside the seat back 5 is arranged, as support means, a lumbar support air mat 19 for supporting the seat occupant's lumbar. Additionally, inside the cushion side support portions 7 and 9 are arranged, as support means, cushion side support air mats 21 and 23 for supporting the sides of the occupant's legs, whereas inside the back side support portions 11 and 13 are arranged, as support means, back side support air mats 25 and 27 for supporting the sides of the occupant's arms.
Each of the air mats 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, and 27 is connected with a conduit 31 which branches off from a discharge port of a pump 29. The conduit 31 branches out into four portions, each being provided with a valve 33. The conduit 31, the pump 29, and the valves 33 are elements of an actuator means.
The contour of the seat S can be varied by inputting and outputting air to and from each of the air mats 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, and 27 so as to expand and contract them. This variation in contour of the seat S allows the seat occupant to maintain an optimum posture on the seat S at any time during driving.
It is to be noted that the support means may be of the electromagnetic type and/or the vibrator type in place of the aforementioned air mat type.
On a seat belt 35 is arranged, as body displacement detecting means for detecting the physical displacement of the seat occupant induced by a change in his posture on the seat S, a seat belt displacement detecting sensor 37 which provides information to a control means comprising a microcomputer 39.
It is to be noted that a pressure sensor to be arranged inside the seat S and a television camera may serve as the body displacement detecting means. In the former case, the physical displacement of the seat occupant is determined by the output of the pressure sensor, whereas in the latter case, the physical displacement is detected based on an image picked up by the camera.
A vehicle speed detecting means for detecting a running state of the vehicle comprising a vehicle speed sensor 41 is connected to the microcomputer 39. Also, manual command detecting means 45 are connected to the microcomputer 39 so as to detect the state (ON or OFF) of a manually operable means for controlling the valves 33 by manual command comprising a manual switch 43.
The microcomputer 39 includes a memory which stores a predetermined value of a seat belt displacement detected when the occupant sits on the seat S and attaches the seat belt 35, and it determines the physical displacement of the occupant by comparing the value detected by the seat belt displacement detecting sensor 37 with this predetermined value.
The microcomputer 39 determines that the seat occupant has moved when the value detected by the seat belt displacement detection sensor 37 is greater than the aforementioned predetermined value, and it determines that the occupant has become fatigued when the count of a counter reaches a predetermined setting. The microcomputer 39 then outputs a signal to control one or more of the valves 33, thus adjusting the air pressure within, for example, the lumbar support air mat 19.
Additionally, the microcomputer 39 is an element of an automatic mode setting means for setting an automatic mode of variation of the seat contour. Specifically, by incorporating the timing, the position, and the amount of a manual command into an initial automatic mode of variation, the microcomputer 39 creates a new automatic mode of variation on the basis of which the seat contour is controlled.
Referring to FIG. 2, the operation of this embodiment will be described.
In step S1, it is determined whether an ignition switch is turned on or not. If the ignition switch is turned on, the routine proceeds to step S2 where it is determined whether a vehicle speed is detected by a vehicle speed sensor 41 or not. That is, it is determined whether the vehicle is running or not. If the answer in step S2 is YES, i.e., if the vehicle is running, the routine proceeds to step S3. On the other hand, even if the vehicle is not running, it is determined that the vehicle will start soon with the ignition switch turned on, so the routine at step S2 is repeatedly executed.
In step S3, all or some of the valves 33 are controlled at a predetermined cycle corresponding to an initial automatic mode of variation of the seat contour indicated by a solid line in FIG. 3(b). Specifically, in this embodiment, for example, the air pressure within the lumbar support air mat 19 is controlled to vary the contour of the seat S.
Various methods can be employed for decreasing the fatigue of the occupant:
1) Repeatedly expanding and contracting the air mat a predetermined number of times based on a valve setting so established as to open and close the valve by the aforementioned predetermined number of times after every lapse of a predetermined period of time.
2) Perform the supply and discharge of air to and from the air mat one time during a predetermined period of time.
3) Shake, for example, the lumbar support portion up and down, and the buttock support portion back and forth by a motor during a predetermined period of time.
4) Vibrate, for example, the aforementioned support portion(s) by a vibrator during a predetermined period of time.
Additionally, the seat S may be so constructed that a cycle of expansion and contraction of the air mat, for example, is selected by the seat occupant, or so that the cycle is automatically selected by a sensor for detecting a physical characteristic of the seat occupant.
In subsequent step S4, it is determined whether or not manual control is performed through the manual switch 43 so as to vary the contour of the seat S. If manual control is not performed, the routine returns to step S3 so as to continuously execute control of the valves 33 based on the initial automatic mode.
On the other hand, if it is determined in step S4 that manual control is performed, the routine proceeds to step S5 where the timing, the position, and the magnitude of a manual control command are stored in the microcomputer 39 via the manual command detecting means 45.
In subsequent step S6, the initial mode of variation used in step S3 is rewritten by incorporating thereinto the aforementioned timing, position, and magnitude of the manual control command, thus determining a second automatic mode of variation of the seat contour.
Subsequently, in step S7, the contour of the seat S is automatically controlled based on the second mode of variation which, being based on the physical state of the seat occupant, contributes to a decrease in fatigue without causing discomfort. The second mode of variation is maintained for a predetermined period of time t1.
In step S8, it is determined whether the second automatic mode of variation has been maintained for the predetermined period of time t1 or not. If the answer in step S8 is YES, and a manual control command is not performed during the predetermined period of time t1, the mode of variation of a seat contour returns to the initial mode of variation (step S8→S4→S3).
As described above, when the seat occupant recovers from his fatigue, the automatic mode of variation returns to the initial mode. In the event the seat S is occupied by another, this arrangement permits the seat to deal with individual variation in fatigue. Alternatively, after determination of the second mode of variation, the seat contour may be varied according to the second mode. When the second mode of variation is canceled by a cancel switch, for example, the seat mode may return to the initial mode of variation.
Referring to FIG. 3, the timing of the initial automatic mode of variation and the timing of a manual control command are schematically shown in accordance with a typical driving pattern of the motor vehicle.
While the seat contour is being controlled in a predetermined cyclical manner, if it is determined from the value the detected by the seat belt displacement detecting sensor 37 that the seat occupant has moved due to fatigue, the seat contour is varied so as to reduce the fatigue, causing irregularity in the initial mode of variation (as shown by the pulse signal drawn with a dotted line in the center of FIG. 3(b)).
Referring to FIG. 4, a manual command which is performed as shown in FIG. 3(c) is incorporated into the initial mode to obtain a second mode of variation, various examples of which are shown in FIGS. 4(c)-4(g).
The mode indicated as "mode A" is one in which the timing of the manual command is simply superimposed on the initial mode. After occurrence of a manual command, the seat contour is varied based on mode A for a predetermined period of time t1. It is to be noted that the timing of the manual command may be incorporated into the initial mode only in a predetermined time zone of the initial mode.
The mode of variation indicated as "mode B" is one in which the timing of the manual command is used instead of the timing of the initial mode. If a manual command is not generated during the predetermined period of time t1, the mode of variations returns to the initial mode.
The mode of variation indicated as "mode C" is one in which, and the initial mode is canceled. Accordingly, "mode C" can be maintained until driving is terminated. The mode of variation may return from mode C to the initial mode upon termination of driving, or it may be maintained when driving next takes place. In the latter case, the seat contour may be controlled in a reproduced manner, i.e., based on the initial mode during a period of time ranging from the start of driving to the last manual command, and with "mode C" thereafter, or it may be controlled with "mode C" from the beginning of driving.
The mode indicated as "mode D" is one in which corrections such as turning-off or quantitative modification of the initial mode are incorporated into the initial mode. In this example, turning-off and a partial decrease in the magnitude of the initial mode are controlled by manual command.
As described above, the contour of the seat S is controllable by incorporating a manual command into an initial automatic mode of variation, thereby decreasing the fatigue of the seat occupant without causing any discomfort.
It is to be noted that instead of the manual command being used to alter the timing of the initial mode, it can be used to alter the amount by which a support is adjusted or the location of the support which is adjusted in the initial mode.
The fatigue of the seat occupant is revealed by a) flicker value, b) amount of eyeball motion, c) myoelectric potential, d) bloodstream/blood pressure, or e) dermal temperature. These parameters which indicate fatigue of the seat occupant can be sensed by a suitable sensor 46 disposed in the vicinity of the seat 3 and connected to the microcomputer 39. Each of these parameters has the following relationship with fatigue.
a) Flicker value is an index indicative of the consciousness level of the cerebrum. The higher the flicker value, the higher is the consciousness level. This value decreases with increase in fatigue or drowsiness.
b) Amount of eyeball motion is examined on an electrooculogram (EOG). If driving is continued for a few hours or more, the amplitude and the frequency of eyeball motion both decrease, whereas the frequency of blinking increases considerably. These correspond to a wakeness level.
c) Myoelectric potential is examined using electromyograman (EMG). When fatigue reaches a predetermined level, a waveform with a large amplitude begins to appear on the trapezius, and the frequency of occurrence of a fine waveform is increased.
d) Bloodstream/blood pressure. In parts of the anatomy such as the buttocks which always are subjected to pressure due to sitting, fatigue or numbness may be induced by constriction of the blood supply.
e) Dermal temperature. Fatigue is detectable from a decrease in dermal temperature due to bad blood circulation.
It is to be noted that the seat S of the present invention is applicable not only to motor vehicles, but to vessels, aircraft, and the like.
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|U.S. Classification||297/284.6, 297/284.9, 297/DIG.3, 297/284.11|
|International Classification||B60N2/44, A47C7/46, B60N2/02|
|Cooperative Classification||B60N2002/0268, Y10S297/03, B60N2/0228, A47C7/467, B60N2/4415, B60N2/0244, B60N2/0232|
|European Classification||B60N2/02B4, B60N2/44H, B60N2/02B2, A47C7/46B, B60N2/02B6|
|May 12, 1997||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Jun 19, 2001||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Nov 23, 2001||LAPS||Lapse for failure to pay maintenance fees|
|Jan 29, 2002||FP||Expired due to failure to pay maintenance fee|
Effective date: 20011123